The American warfighter is known worldwide for his bravery under fire. However, some tales are so outlandish as to be almost unbelievable – but they are true. This is the second story in our “American Heroes” series highlighting these stories.
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“I was raised by the Ten Commandments and one is ‘Though Shall Not Kill’. Well, ‘thou shall not kill my Marines’, either. This is war. If you’re gonna kill my Marines, I will kill you.”
Those are the words of Marine Scout Sniper Chuck Mawhinney.
In 16 months as a Marine Corps sniper in Vietnam in 1968 and 1969, Mawhinney killed 103 of the enemy. Another 216 kills were listed only as probables because it was too risky to take time to search the bodies for weapons and documents.
“It was the ultimate hunting trip: a man hunting another man who was hunting me,” he said. “Don’t talk to me about hunting lions or elephants; they don’t fight back with rifles and scopes. I just loved it. I ate it up.”
While his exploits are legendary, there’s one particular night that stands out among the rest – Valentine’s Day, 1969.
Positioned on a well-traveled enemy river crossing, Mawhinney and his spotter waited patiently for an enemy patrol.
Then it happened. The enemy patrol began entering the river in front of them. Armed with his M-14 rifle, equipped with a primative, low resolution night vision device known as a Starlite scope, Mawhinney waited for the right time.
When he opened fire there were 16 enemies crossing the river. Mawhinney quickly fired a total of 16 shots, striking each enemy with a single round to the head – and sending them floating down the river.
Under fire from other North Vietnamese Army soldiers across the river, the sniper / spotter pair quietly left the area without leaving a trace they’d been there – other than 16 brass casings and 16 dead enemies.
“My rules of engagement were simple: If they had a weapon, they were going down. Except for an NVA paymaster I hit at 900 yards, everyone I killed had a weapon”
For a little more on Mawhinney, check out this feature from the NRA Life of Duty series: